Month: July 2013

A Few Points in School Struggling Land

Out there in school struggling land there are some common themes that I find myself saying over and over to parents to help them understand their kids better.  Here are a few:

Smooth Road and Rough Road Kids:

Generally speaking kids are on one side or the other relative to school issues.  I see it all of the time.  A parent will say something like, “I have one child who is breezing through school and one that always is struggling.”  Basically, there are kids who have a relatively smooth ride, and then there are the rest – the ones on the rougher road.  The rougher road kids have a tough time.  Your job as a parent is not to necessarily fix the road (probably an impossible task), but to try and help smooth the road out as much as you can.  For example, good learning therapy/tutoring helps to fill in some of the holes.  Setting up reasonable structures in the house is another example of helping to smooth the road.

Gradations from the Middle

We seem to like our labels and they have some value, but as a general theme I am generally uncomfortable with labeling and pathologizing children. I see kids more in gradations from the mid- point on a given variable.   Dyslexia, for example, is not like a cavity.  You can’t put dyslexia on an x-ray and say definitively, “There it is…you have this thing called, dyslexia.”  The same is true with ADD/ADHD.    Many kids that I see have enough of a “touch” of the syndrome (e.g., ADHD, Reading Disability), yet not enough to warrant full classification or labeling. These children often fall through the cracks.  They need help regardless of the label.

Parenting Isn't the Root of All Childhood Problems

Parents are blamed for virtually all child issues.  I think too much so.  Child temperament is a crucial yet underrated variable that accounts for a great deal of the difficulty families’ face with challenging children. Certainly parenting counts and is a big factor, but we tend to see parenting as the be-all and end-all when it comes to child behavior. I can’t understand how parenting is the primary factor when there are two or three children in a family and only one of them is challenging while the other two are flexible and easy-going.  Don’t be so quick to take the heat as a parent!


(Adapted from School Struggles, (2012), Sentient Publications, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.)

Common Core State Standards: (Lots of Luck)

Most of you probably remember a few years back when all of the buzz was No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Schools scrambled to meet the expectations of NCLB. Fast forward to 2013. No one seems to be talking about NCLB anymore. Its been put away in one of the many dustbins of educational reform.

Instead, the current buzz is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). As noted in an article on the CCSS, The Common Core State Standards are a coherent progression of learning experiences in English language arts and mathematics designed to prepare K-12 students for college and career success.

Lets take a look at some of the standards under the strand for English Language Arts/Writing for first grade:

With guidance and support from adults, focus on a topic, respond to questions and suggestions from peers, and add details to strengthen writing as needed.

With opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion and provide some sense of closure.

Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order and provide some sense of closure.

Sounds wonderful, doesnt it?

How about young Jarrod, though, who just completed second grade and who was recently evaluated for a learning disability. How will CCSS handle him? Jarrod cannot write a sentence, no less a persuasive essay (keeping in mind he is year beyond the above standards). People that struggle with essay writing often use external services such as customwritingservice to help them write extended pieces, and this may be a good option in the future for someone like Jarrod.

Heres Jarrods essay on a story he saw on television recently, transcribed as close as possible to the original.

Songy gos to the petstoand Dosent hava lof of mony to get a Dog so his shakr kreg Pots in a hahoren pellets and they got 100 Dogs the sogy throo a Ball that axiDently Lah Did in ther naBr NoDm Yar D ant the Dogs get his BloBares anD he COLD the potho. Sogy and Crag weht to the pound and openD a Jarof BLOOBares and aLL of the dogs cam roh Oldt and ther NaBer was trapuled By the Dogs.

So, CCCS is going to emphasize persuasive writing and narrative discourse with Jarrod? Lots of luck.

Developmentally, Jarrod is a great distance away from writing a persuasive essay. At this stage in his development, I do not think that Jarrod could construct a sentence such as, The duck swims on the pond, yet he will be asked to produce a five paragraph persuasive essay (what third graders should be able to do). It’s expected that Jarrod will make good use of the internet to get descriptive essay writing help, and use this to his advantage.

Jarrod needs to be working at the sentence level. Until he has mastered the writing of a sentence, anything more than that is unfair and destined to produce frustration and anguish.

Takeaway Point:

Youve got to be kidding me.


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